Monday, January 10, 2011

TED Is Doing What Advertisers Should Be Doing

TED is throwing an “Ideas Worth Spreading” contest.

It’s asking for the best advertising ideas to be submitted. By best, they don’t mean ads that sell the most.

What they mean by “best” is ads that make a difference. According to Chris Anderson, they’re “Ads that engage the audience authentically, intelligently, delightfully. Ads that people will want to share, because they encapsulate ideas worth spreading.”

Isn’t this the brief that most advertisers should be giving their agencies for every product they sell?

But they don’t do they?

Instead, what advertisers care most about is how many people the ad reaches and how much product it sells. Not insignificant things to care about, granted. But not at the expense of whether or not people pay attention to the ad.

I’m not saying that every ad that people pay attention to will sell the product. But I’m fairly certain that ads that people don’t pay attention to, won’t sell the product.

In other words, attention is a necessary precursor to sales.

I think Anderson and TED understand this. What they’re saying is that because the online platform allows viewers to engage with advertising on their terms for any length of time, creativity becomes more important than ever.

If, of course, we allow viewers to engage on their terms. If we stop hijacking the viewer’s attention and start earning it.

And if, and this is the big if, if we start paying agencies for earning that attention rather than hijacking it.

Anderson needs to realize that even though greatness can be inspired through organizations like TED, it’s best manifested through money.

If advertisers paid agencies based on how well they captured a viewer’s attention, guess what? Attention would be captured.

There are models that allow this to happen.

What the industry needs now is more evangelists like Anderson and TED that inspire and challenge it to change its ways.

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